[Screen It]


(1997) (Keanu Reeves, Al Pacino) (R)

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Drama: A hotshot attorney discovers that working for a large Manhattan law firm can literally be hell.
Kevin Lomax (KEANU REEVES) is a hot Florida defense attorney. Having never lost a case, he's drawn the attention of a large Manhattan law firm run by John Milton (AL PACINO), a ruthless man who seemingly never needs any sleep. The firm woos Kevin, offering him a personal assistant, Pam Garrety (DEBRA MONK), and a $400 hundred per hour billing practice. Kevin and his wife, Mary Ann (CHARLIZE THERON), can't turn that down and accept the job. They move into a gargantuan apartment right across the hall from the only other apartment on the floor that's occupied by Leamon Heath (RUBEN SANTIAGO-HUDSON), another lawyer at the firm, and his wife Jackie (TAMARA TUNIE). Milton likes what he sees and quickly assigns Kevin to some of their bigger cases, including one involving Alexander Cullen (CRAIG T. NELSON), a real estate mogul who may have killed three people. Some at the firm, including managing partner Eddie Barzoon (JEFFREY JONES), aren't happy with Kevin's meteoric rise through the ranks. Others like him, however, such as Christabella (CONNIE NEILSEN), an attractive woman who Kevin can't stop looking at. At home and unemployed, Mary Ann tackles the job of decorating their huge apartment and hangs out with Jackie who helps her get adjusted to life in New York. Soon, however, Mary Ann begins to see things -- evil, monstrous things -- and Kevin's visiting mother, Alice (JUDITH IVEY), feels particularly uncomfortable around Milton. Mary Ann begins to feel neglected and a little crazy as Kevin spends more and more time with work and with Milton, whom he admires for his amazing perception and power. Once Mary Ann finally has a mental breakdown from her horrific visions, Kevin slowly begins to understand what's going on. As he discovers there's more to Milton's devilish grin than meets the eye, he must decide what to do once he finds himself in a truly hellish situation.
Preteens probably won't, but those who are fans of Reeves ("Speed") or Pacino, just might.
For sexuality, nudity, violence and language.
  • KEANU REEVES plays a hotshot defense attorney who's never lost a case due to his willingness to do whatever it takes to win (even if he knows his client is guilty). In doing so, he soon neglects his wife in favor of his work, and fantasizes about another woman at the office.
  • AL PACINO plays the Devil himself who, when not tormenting souls, runs a law firm in Manhattan.
  • CHARLIZE THERON plays Lomax's wife who begins to go crazy from isolation and her demonic visions.


    OUR TAKE: 7.5 out of 10
    Following in the footsteps of Jack Nicholson in "The Witches of Eastwick," Al Pacino now tackles the role of the Devil. Since the character is obviously the ultimate "bad guy," an actor must make sure to create him in a fashion where the audience will like him -- at least for part of the film. If he were all fire and brimstone right from the start we wouldn't, nor would any of the other characters get close to him. Thus Pacino, like Nicholson, keeps the devilish grin, but creates an intense, but also carefree character whose actions personify who he really is. I mean really, once you get a look at his office and apartment, there's no doubting as to his real identity. So, the fun of the movie must come from his seduction of the innocent, who in this case is played by Keanu Reeves. Adopting a southern accent that occasionally slips away, Reeves does a fine job playing the gung ho attorney, and is surprisingly believable in the role. Pacino, as always, is superb and does get to chew on the scenery a bit in a few over-the-top moments, but for the most part is also quite believable and certainly always fun to watch.

    The plot is strong enough to sustain our interest despite the overly long, and nearly two and a half hour run time. Of course its strength comes from the fact that it's essentially a truly more evil version of "The Firm." The story's the same: A hotshot attorney is wooed by a prestigious, but mysterious law firm (in the North now instead of the south) and he and his lovely wife accept and move across the country. She soon finds herself never seeing her husband who spends more and more hours working on cases, so she hangs out with the other wives instead. (Sound familiar?) He then begins to get a little suspicious about the firm's actions, while she gets the creeps about the whole situation. (Which movie are we talking about?) Once they figure out what's going on, it's too late -- and in this movie, this firm is truly more evil than the other.

    While the movie is rather enjoyable to watch and offers some incredibly fun twists at the end (which we'll not divulge), it suffers from something of a split plot problem. Whereas in "The Firm" Tom Cruise actively tried to figure out what was going on, and once he did, worked to fix his problem, Keanu Reeve's character works with a problem associated with, but not headlining the main plot. So by now you know that Milton is the Devil and his firm is one big evil law firm. We want to see Keanu take them on, to be active in figuring out what's happening and then solve the problem. Instead he focuses on a court case that's related to that bigger issue, but isn't overly active there either. Audiences want to see active, not reactive characters, and that diminishes the film's overall impression and "fun" factor. It works the way it's created -- and is enjoyable -- but it could have been far more enjoyable had they adopted the active character design.

    Director Taylor Hackford, working from a script by Jonathan Lemkin and Tony Gilroy, also never fully explores or explains Mary Ann's descent into madness. It would have made sense had her actions caused Kevin to question Milton and his firm, or if Milton had induced her visions because of that. It simply stands that she's the one who can really see what's going on, and while it's sometimes quite frightening, it's never really explained. As events unfold through the course of the film, they do get more spooky, and there are a few quite thrilling scenes. Marching toward its end, however, the film leans toward the excessive as any sense of realism leaps from the window to get out of the way of the hellish theatrical fireworks that are soon to follow. Of course judging a film for losing realism when it's dealing with the plot of the Devil running a law firm is itself somewhat absurd. And I suppose the big ending is what everyone expects, but it approaches a campy level as it all draws to a close. Even so, despite its similarity to "The Firm," this film feels fresh and certainly is different from most other fare that Hollywood's lately been dumping into the theaters. With good, solid performances and a decent, but familiar plot, "Devil's Advocate" is a fun, several hour escape in a darkened theater. We give it a 7.5 out of 10.

    This film is filled with a great deal of material that many people might find objectionable and few, if any but the oldest of teens should probably see it. Some viewers will obviously dislike the parts dealing with the Devil and the occult, and many of those scenes generate some rather suspenseful and scary moments. Several people are killed, some by their own hands, and some by others, and many of the deaths are graphically bloody and gruesome. There are several instances of female full frontal and rear nudity and we also see several erotic, sexual encounters. Profanity is extreme with more than 50 "f' words. Due to the above material and more, and since some kids will be drawn to this film, we strongly suggest that parents examine this material before they and/or any of their children see it.

  • Kevin, Mary Ann and others drink many shots of liquor to celebrate Kevin's court victory.
  • People drink in a bar.
  • Jackie has a drink and later she and Mary Ann drink wine (or champagne).
  • People drink at Milton's party.
  • Kevin comes home to find Mary Ann upset and drinking what appears to be Scotch.
  • Mary Ann, Jackie, and Milton's wife drink while trying on clothes.
  • People drink at a post-boxing match party.
  • Lomax has a drink with Milton, and later he and Christabella drink in Milton's apartment.
  • We see a bloody dead goat on a videotape that briefly shows an animal sacrifice. Later the same man seen there pulls out a large, bloody animal tongue to be used in a voodoo curse.
  • We see shots of several bloody murder victims.
  • We see a baby holding a woman's bloody, and obviously removed, ovaries and then see blood on a woman's shirt near her crotch.
  • A man is rather bloody after being beaten to death by two men.
  • Mary Ann, claiming to have had rough sex with Milton, pulls off her robe. We not only see full frontal nudity, but also many large bloody scrapes on her body.
  • We see a man whose head is very bloody after he was hit by a car.
  • A person slits their throat with a shard of glass and is very bloody, as are the people who try to save that person. Later, another person commits suicide and the scene is extremely bloody as it's seen in slow motion.
  • A woman's body quickly ages into a decomposed, gross-looking heap.
  • Obviously, since Milton is the Devil, some viewers will see him and his associates as having extreme cases of both (especially when he denounces God, calling him an "absentee landlord" and a "prankster," and goes into a church and makes holy water boil with the touch of his finger). He's also responsible for several people's deaths.
  • Pam tells Lomax that Milton "will take away your fear" and will make him feel better. Milton later tells Lomax, "Guilt is like a bag of bricks. All you have to do is set it down."
  • Some will also see Lomax's actions of defending those he knows are guilty (such as the pedofile teacher in a court case) as having both.
  • Some won't like Lomax's comments where he states he's on religious parole for "having served my time" (in churches).
  • A school teacher is on trial for, and we learn is guilty of, fondling one of his students.
  • It turns out Cullen was having an affair with his assistant.
  • Some scenes listed under "Violence" may also be tense to some viewers.
  • There are several instances where Mary Ann sees others, including Jackie and Pam, have their faces suddenly turn into hideous, monstrous creatures.
  • Mary Ann wakes up and thinks someone's in the apartment with her. She then slowly makes her way through their place and the scene is quite suspenseful.
  • Some partially invisible people chase after Eddie while he's jogging. He then has a violent run-in with two homeless men.
  • Several people try to stop another person from committing suicide, but can't get to them.
  • The ending sequence of the movie, where things become decidedly hellish, may be too intense for some viewers.
  • Handgun: Carried by Cullen and taken away by Lomax.
  • Knife: Pulled out by a thug to threaten Milton and Lomax.
  • Handgun: Used to shoot at or kill people. See "Violence" for details.
  • Phrases: "Jerk off," (sexual), "Bitch" (toward women), "Go to hell," "Pig f*ck," "Piss me off," and "Boning" (sexual).
  • Two people commit suicide, one by slitting the throat, the other by a gunshot wound to the head.
  • None.
  • There is a heavy amount of horror-type scary music in the film.
  • None.
  • At least 53 "f" words (1 used with "mother" and 7 used sexually as is the phrase "boning"), 13 "s" words, 1 slang term for male genitals (the "d" word), 2 slang terms for breasts (the "t" word), 13 hells, 6 damns, 5 asses, 1 S.O.B., and 7 uses of "G-damn," 4 uses each of "Oh God" and "Oh my God," 3 uses of "God," 2 uses each of "Jesus" and "Oh Jesus," and 1 use each of "For God's sakes," "Jesus Christ," "Oh Christ," "My God," and "For Christ's sakes" as exclamations.
  • During a court case, a school girl talks about a teacher putting his hand in her blouse and then up inside her skirt and then "moving (his fingers) back and forth." As she tells the story, we briefly see him feeling his crotch as well as rubbing his fingers under a table like she describes. Lomax then accuses the girl of playing some sort of sexual game called "Special Places" with some other kids.
  • Kevin and Mary Ann dance and he goes down her body and kisses her on her clothed butt.
  • The outfit Mary Ann wears in one scene shows some cleavage. Later we see her in her underwear and a camisole.
  • Christabella tells Lomax that "...You like to be on top...of a situation."
  • A sculpture mural on Milton's wall shows classic nude figures and we see bare breasts. Later, these figures "come to life" and move about, some in a sexual nature (and we hear some moaning sounds), but they still look like marble figures.
  • Seeing Milton's apartment without a bed, Lomax asks, "Where does he sleep?" Someone else responds, "Who says he sleeps?" Lomax then asks, "Where does he f*ck?" Milton then chimes in, "Everywhere."
  • Mary Ann watches while Jackie and Milton's wife try on clothes. Jackie then removes her top and we see her bare breasts and she asks Mary Ann whether she thinks they're real or not. She then takes Mary Ann's hand and has her feel them to find out.
  • Kevin tells Mary Ann, "Let's make a baby" and they begin to kiss. Her shirt comes off and suddenly she turns into Christabella and back again several times and we see her bare breasts. She licks down his chest and then undoes his pants. We then just see his expression implying oral sex. They then get on the floor, he feels and kisses her breasts and pulls off her pants. We then see his bare butt and side of hers as he gets between her legs. We see some movement and hear some sounds.
  • Two women in an elevator with Milton act erotically toward each other and one of them licks the other's throat.
  • In subtitles we see the sentence, "He's going to f*ck her up the ass," as Milton describes to a thug what's happening in his home in his absence.
  • At a party, a woman moves under the table toward Milton's crotch, implying oral sex.
  • Mary Ann, claiming to have had rough sex with Milton, pulls off her robe. We not only see full frontal nudity, but also many large bloody scrapes on her body.
  • Christabella removes her clothes and we see full frontal and rear nudity. She and Lomax passionately kiss (while the nude wall sculpture mural behind them comes to life and the people move about in sexual ways and sounds) and he then gets between her legs on a table and kisses down her chest.
  • Milton smokes quite often during the film while we also see Lomax, Christabella, Pam and Jackie occasionally smoking.
  • A few people seen in the backgrounds of shots smoke.
  • Kevin doesn't quite like his mother always quoting Scripture to him, especially about going to New York. He also mentions that he never had (or specifically knew about) a father.
  • The Lomax's marriage becomes strained as he spends more time at work then with her, and after she starts seeing demonic visions he eventually has her committed because he thinks she's crazy, but no children are involved.
  • The Devil and the occult.
  • Putting one's career ahead of personal relationships.
  • We see a bloody dead goat on a videotape that briefly shows an animal sacrifice.
  • Cullen is accused of killing three people and we later see shots of their dead, bloody bodies.
  • Two boxers exchange blows in the ring.
  • Cullen slams Lomax back against a wall during a court case break.
  • Two homeless men beat a jogger to death with sticks.
  • Mary Ann, claiming to have had rough sex with Milton, pulls off her robe. We not only see full frontal nudity, but also many large bloody scrapes on her body.
  • We hear that one of Lomax's earlier defendants was found with a dead girl in his trunk.
  • A car hits a man and throws him to the street, killing him.
  • A person slits their throat with a shard of glass.
  • Lomax shoots Milton several times, but being the Devil, it doesn't hurt him.
  • A person commits suicide by a gunshot to the head.

  • Reviewed October 14, 1997

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